A new twist in the plot for the controversial pipeline, as TransCanada asks for a suspension of its application.
This Monday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that President Obama would make a finial decision before the end of his term on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands into the U.S. and beyond if approved.
Not long after the statement, TransCanada, the pipeline’s builder, asked for a suspension of its application, which is under review by the State Department. TransCanada first announced the project in 2008, and has been seeking permission to build from individual states and the federal government.
TransCanada said it’s seeking the suspension of the federal review until legal battles over the pipeline’s route through Nebraska are resolved in court. The request is a reversal of previous requests to speed up the federal approval process.
Opponents of the pipeline say TransCanada’s move is an attempt to avoid an outright rejection of the project from Obama, who has been critical of pipeline in past comments. If a pro-pipeline candidate is elected, critics speculate, the company could try to reinstate its application.
“This is nothing more than another desperate and cynical attempt by TransCanada to build their dirty pipeline someday if they get a climate denier in the White House in 2017,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters.
However, TransCanada denies the request for the pause has anything to do with White House comments. "Our focus isn't on the political machinations of what this president may or may not do or who may be in office a year from now,” a spokesperson told the AP. He said the company has “been hearing since February the same rumors that a denial or a decision is imminent."
Environmental groups are still pushing for the Obama administration to reject the pipeline, regardless of TransCanada’s request to delay the decision.
UPDATE [11/4/2015]: Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that President Obama will not grant TransCanada a suspension of its application.